An offensive display gave the Shippensburg University football team a dominant win over Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) rival East Stroudsburg University on Senior Day from Seth Grove Stadium, 48–7.
The Red Raiders were led by redshirt-freshman quarterback Brycen Mussina, who was coming off arguably the best performance of his career in a big win over Lock Haven University in which he threw for just less than 300 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.
In this week’s game against the Warriors, Mussina was not as efficient, completing 23 of his 34 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns, but he had two picks.
Mussina ranks No. 4 in Division II in passing yards with 3,169, and his numbers place him third in SU history behind two seasons from stellar alumnus Zach Zulli in 2012 (4,747) and 2013 (3,500). He also trails three of Zulli’s seasons (2012 – 54; 2013 – 35; 2011 – 34) in touchdown passes with 31 this season.
Although his season has been one for the record books, Mussina has struggled mightily all season with turnovers — only going two games without an interception (19 on the season).
The run game put in another strong day, racking up a total of 173 yards. Redshirt-sophomore running back Raleigh Sirb continued his hot streak with 84 yards on the ground against the Warriors after running for an impressive 152 and a score last weekend against the Bald Eagles.
Redshirt-senior Marcus Lominy also had a decent day, contributing 53 rushing yards.
The Red Raiders started out quickly, scoring on their first drive of the game after a pair of long completions to star wide receivers in redshirt-sophomore Winston Eubanks and redshirt-junior Josh Gontarek to give senior quarterback Chase Yocum the opportunity for a six-yard touchdown.
The Warriors responded immediately, as quarterback Jake Cirillo completed a 42-yard pass to Jylil Reeder to put the offense in SU territory. Cirillo ran it himself from seven yards out to tie the game up at seven with not much time remaining in the first quarter.
From that point on, it was all SU. The Red Raiders scored 41 unanswered points in a dominating effort. The offense moved methodically and efficiently on almost every drive the rest of the game.
There was only one drive in the entire first half in which the Red Raiders did not score. On their following drive, Mussina found his usual targets in Eubanks and Gontarek as the team made its way downfield. Mussina found redshirt-freshman tight end David Balint for a six-yard touchdown to cap off the drive. The play came on SU’s third fourth-down conversion of the day.
Coach Mark “Mac” Maciejewski did not take his foot off the gas, as the Red Raiders marched down the field for the third consecutive drive and rode Sirb all the way into ESU territory.
Sirb totaled 36 yards on the drive. Gontarek also reeled in two receptions for 26 yards — including one on fourth down — before Eubanks grabbed the nine-yard touchdown from Mussina, making it 21–7 midway through the second quarter.
Yocum came back into the game on the final drive of the first half, throwing his first touchdown of the season on a short completion to redshirt-junior receiver Chris Figler.
The score was the first of Figler’s collegiate career, which gave the Red Raiders an impressive 21-point lead going into the half.
The fireworks slowed down in the second half as SU relaxed a little more and enjoyed itself. The defense continued its dominance and only allowed ESU to enter Red Raider territory once in the half.
The SU offense still came out on fire to start the third quarter, as Mussina and Sirb led the team down the field and Yocum finished the drive with his third overall touchdown — completing a career performance in his final home game.
Mussina threw his two interceptions of the day on the next two drives, and the team did not do much until the first drive of the fourth quarter.
Mussina got back into a rhythm and charged downfield, finding Gontarek for his team-leading ninth touchdown of the season. The score at this point was 41–7 in favor of the Red Raiders.
Mussina’s day was done and he gave way to redshirt-sophomore Landon Archangelo. The SU defense continued to play out of its mind. The unit limited the Warriors to less than 100 yards from scrimmage in the second half and finished with four sacks on the day, as well as two fumbles and one interception.
The interception was reeled in by redshirt-junior safety Deionte Wilson in the third quarter for his second of the season.
The final score of the game came on SU’s second forced fumble of the day. Redshirt-sophomore defensive lineman Tim Bradley sacked Cirillo at ESU’s own goal-line and redshirt-freshman lineman Cameron Tinner fell on the fumble for the 48–7 score line.
Three of SU’s senior linemen grabbed sacks on the day, as Richard Nase, Dakota Thompson and John Durkin all got a piece of Cirillo.
Nase is now only two sacks shy of tying alumnus Jake Metz’s school record of 30 1/2 career sacks. SU honored 19 seniors before the game, and almost every one of them contributed in some way in Saturday’s victory.
Now that Seth Grove Stadium has seen its last action of the year, the Red Raiders (5–5 overall, 3–3 PSAC) will look to close out their season on a high note.
They will travel to take on Indiana University of Pennsylvania this weekend in the final game of the season. Kickoff is at noon.